An appropriate beginning to your exploration of Brasília is to pay homage to its founder at Niemeyer’s Memorial JK (Praça do Cruzeiro, Eixo Monumental, tel. 61/3225-9451, www.memorialjk.com.br, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Sun., R$4). Constructed out of white marble, its resemblances to an Egyptian pyramid are hardly coincidental. This reverent museum/shrine was inaugurated in 1981, five years after Kubitschek’s untimely death in a car accident.
Upon entering, your eyes alight upon the gold Rolex and identity documents found on the former president’s person when his body was removed from the crash. Aside from his library, you can inspect Kubitschek’s personal objects, clothing (JK was a notorious dandy), and a mint-condition 1973 Galaxie he tooled around in. A rich collection of photographs, portraying the president’s life and the construction of his dream capital, provides an excellent overview of the city’s foundation and early years.
Upstairs, the mortuary chamber, where Kubitschek’s body rests in a black marble sarcophagus, is illuminated by colorful beams filtered through a roof of stained glass. This striking piece was designed by artist Marianne Peretti, who contributed many works to Brasília. Particularly moving is the simple epitaph engraved on JK’s tomb: “O Fundador” (The Founder).
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition